An Open Letter to the Regents from the Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education
We write to express our concern about how the administration proposes to address the budgetary crisis facing the University of Minnesota, and in particular about its proposals for new construction. The University faces significant challenges in the upcoming biennium, challenges that are all the more daunting since they are taking place in the midst of a leadership transition. We urge the Board of Regents to carefully consider how the decisions made in this year's budget will affect the future restructuring of the University. In particular, we fear that new building projects will saddle the University with increased debt and ancillary costs that will hobble the institution in future years, thus posing significant risk to its quality and stature.
We have not seen a single budget projection that anticipates increased state funding in the near future. New projects that add to recurring costs or debt can therefore only be paid for by making deeper cuts to existing units, raising tuition, or some combination of the two. Embarking on new projects is imprudent in a fiscal environment in which existing academic units have already undergone cuts that severely damage the educational and research missions of the University. These cutbacks have already resulted in reduced teaching support, increased class size, layoffs, furloughs, and temporary pay cuts. Students have already endured both a decline in the quality of their education and repeated tuition increases.
The citizens of Minnesota and legislators may question the wisdom of major capital projects in today's dire fiscal situation, in particular those investments that do little to enhance the teaching mission of the University. In addition to the concerns expressed above, we fear that spending on new projects at a time when existing programs are suffering could appear profligate to the wider public and hence jeopardize future state allocations.
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